Happiness through art

BRITTANY PICKETT
Last updated 10:35 29/08/2014
Southland Times photo
BRITTANY PICKETT/Fairfax NZ
HAPPY MEMORIES: Artist Bonita Lynn Parker with her painting Pitt Stop, which won the Southland Art Societies' members prize in the Invercargill Licensing Trust Art Awards.

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Bonita Lynn Parker woke up in recovery at Southland Hospital and thought "I won an award last night".

Parker had been named the recipient of the Southland Art Societies members prize in the Invercargill Licensing Trust Art Awards for her work Pitt Stop.

The day following her win she had surgery to repair fractured bones in her cheek and skull, received during a seizure more than two years ago.

Parker, an Invercargill-based South African artist, moved to New Zealand at 14 and settled with her family in Tauranga before they relocated to Invercargill.

Her epilepsy came as a side effect of her nearly 10-year battle with anorexia, a fight which almost cost her life. At her lowest weight - 27 kilograms - she was too frail to hold a paintbrush, but she always had a pencil in her hand, she said.

"Art was my saving grace," she said. In a hospital bed in Christchurch's Princess Margaret Hospital, Parker sketched and wrote while doctors tried to stabilise her weight.

It has now been two years since she had her last seizure and she continues to find happiness in creating and teaching art. "It's been a journey to recovery.

"I have to keep in check with it," she said. Pitt Stop was inspired by the memory of sitting on her grandparent's porch drinking tea and eating cake surrounded by beautiful wisteria flowers draping down.

The colours and feel of the painting reflect the happiness she has found in herself. Parker also teaches private art classes from her home, something which she finds particularly rewarding. "Part of my reason for being is being able to share what I do," she said.

Watching children with little confidence create something they could be proud of filled her with joy, she said.

Parker's artwork will be shown in an upcoming exhibition with fellow South African artist Joan Oddy in Moments in Time at City Gallery from September 2.

The art would be from when she was "so very unwell" and from now, when she is "the happiest person in Southland", she said.

It was great to be able to show with Oddy not only because she was also a South African living in Southland but because both based their art on memories, she said.

To contact Bonita Lynn Parker for art classes call 021 384 203.

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- Invercargill Eye

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